NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire, who has restaurants dotted around the globe, is about to make his first foray in the United States with a new one in Las Vegas.
The 59-year-old Frenchman, who has been described as France's most innovative chef, is renowned for his structured dishes, which combine classic techniques with modern flair.
In collaboration with French chemist Herve This, who is recognized as the father of molecular gastronomy, he also created what is claimed to be the world's first dish made entirely of pure compounds.
Gagnaire spoke to Reuters about his cooking style, growing up in France and his latest venture, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, which opens in December at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas.
Q: You come from a family of restaurant owners. Is that where your initial inspiration to become a chef came from?
A: "Yes and no. Yes, because I was under pressure to be a chef, although I didn't like it at the beginning. I grew to like it. When I grew to like it I said if I am going to be a chef I am going to enjoy myself.
"And no, because as a child I saw that it involved long hours and stress which didn't inspire me."
Q: So where did the inspiration come from?
A: "One day I just realized I had a little bit of talent. It is like a string you pull and suddenly you realize you have more talent coming."
Q: Early in your career you worked with French chef Paul Bocuse. How much of an influence was he?
A; "It was during the summer. I was there for a short time but I was inspired by his attitude. He was like a knight, a prince. He was very wise. It was not the cuisine that inspired me but more the way he acted and the way he is."
Q: How would you describe your cooking style?
A: "It has its roots in very traditional techniques. In the beginning I realized that in restaurants people were not being given everything. I started to wonder when clients sit down in a restaurant what do they actually expect. Before I start working on the taste and the cuisine I work on the presentation -- what is on the plate, what is on the table, the lighting. A meal is like a show."
Q: You are also known for your architectural dishes.
A: "Yes. My first aim is to build the dish that will give you pleasure."
Q: How important has your collaboration with Herve This been?
A: "It's a friendship. We are extremely good friends. First the chemist, then the chemistry, then the science. Having said that, today we made two dishes based on the work I have done with him. I incorporate the techniques into the dish."
Q: You have restaurants around the globe, how will Twist be different?
A: "Each restaurant is different. Las Vegas is a very exciting city. The team and the decor is going to be different and the expectation will be different."
Q: When you cook for yourself what type of food do you make?
A: "It's more what does the family like, not what do I like."
Q: You are considered one of France's most innovative chefs. What is the secret to your success?
A: "It is hard work. You have to work every day. It is the ability to move forward."
Recipe: Sole "Tante Alice"
2 whole soles, 2-2.5 pounds each
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 finely chopped shallots
1 glass of white wine (chardonnay)
1 1/4 fish stock (preferably made from sole)
2/3 cup of heavy cream
Skin each sole on both sides. Rinse gently with water. Remove the insides and roes. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Butter an ovenproof baking dish, sprinkle with salt, and spread the chopped shallots over the bottom. Place the soles on top, making sure they lie flat. Add the white wine and fish stock, cover with buttered wax paper and cook for 10 minutes in an over preheated to 350 degrees F.
Remove the baking dish and set aside for 10 minutes. Then carefully lift away the fillets of sole. Return the bones and heads to the cooking liquid and reduce it by three-quarters. Add the cream and reduce again by three-quarters.
Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer and correct the seasoning before incorporating the remaining butter. Nap the fish with sauce.
Before serving, place the fish under the broiler for about three minutes to glaze them. Serve immediately.